About 15,000 unvaccinated Quebec healthcare workers risk suspension


“We will not accept having people in our health system who are not vaccinated,” said Minister of Health Christian Dubé. “So if you want to minimize the time you won’t get paid, go get your shot quickly.”

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QUEBEC – With around 15,000 unvaccinated healthcare workers set to be suspended without pay in two weeks, Quebec’s health minister said on Tuesday that the government was considering ‘reorganization’ plans to deal with the labor shortage – work to come in its already overtaxed health system.

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Above all, Christian Dubé implored the hesitant to be vaccinated as soon as possible, saying “it is never too late”. Those who receive a first dose on Wednesday could return to work by the end of October, he said.

Health unions and opposition members called on the government to relax its decree calling for mandatory vaccines and extend the deadline, saying they would cause serious disruption in the healthcare sector and put more pressure on system workers.

Parti Québécois health spokesperson Joël Arseneau said the government should consider extending the deadline or imposing other measures such as increased testing for unvaccinated people to work, so to avoid further difficulties.

“We must act so as not to lose more services,” he said. “If we already have service outages when we run out of 4,000 nurses, what will be the effect when we double that deficit?”

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Of the 30,000 health workers who were not vaccinated as of September 7, when the government announced that it was making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for employees of health and social services centers, only half went to get vaccinated. Of these, 7,500 are workers who deal directly with patients. The deadline set was October 15.

Dubé did not specify what type of reorganization would be necessary. Government officials are in talks with health care officials to determine how to move tasks and services to make up for the loss of staff. But restructuring is still difficult, he warned.

“Can we reorganize services to make sure people are only served by people who have been vaccinated?” The answer is yes, ”Dubé said. “But we have seen what is happening with a reorganization of services. I do not like it.

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“What I find deplorable is that these people know… they see what it costs patients to do this type of reorganization of services. So what I ask them today is: do you want to be the cause of all this because you are not vaccinated?

Dubé stressed that the government will not back down on its deadline. He referred to reports from the United States showing that many healthcare workers were waiting until the last moment to get vaccinated in order to be sure to do so.

“I tell you, we are determined. We will not accept having people in our health care system who are not vaccinated. So if you want to minimize the time that you won’t get paid, go get the shot quickly. “

Liberal leader Dominique Anglade supported the government’s decision, saying it must send a clear message.

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“Because we have people who are not vaccinated in the health sector, there are beds that people need, people waiting for surgery,” she said.

“I understand that somehow there will be impacts, but I think the safest thing is to get everyone vaccinated.”

When asked why other health care professionals – such as dentists and physiotherapists – don’t have to be vaccinated, Dubé said studies have shown dentists, for example, have adequate protection and have not been a source of epidemics. But, he added, the government will change tactics if things change.

In its original plan, the government said the vaccination mandate would only apply to workers who come into prolonged contact with patients. Following hearings held by a committee of the National Assembly and recommendations on public health, the government decided to apply the measure to any person working or visiting a health or social service center, including employed as secretaries.

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In an open letter published Monday, Dr Lawrence Rosenberg, head of the regional health authority for west-central Montreal, urged health workers to get vaccinated before the government-imposed October 15 deadline.

“Patients and clients will still be able to receive treatment or care, regardless of their immunization status,” Rosenberg writes. “But everyone needs to be fully immunized.

“This is not just a regulation, it is a necessity of common sense. The number of COVID-19 infections is on the rise, mainly among those who have not been vaccinated. “

Andy Riga of the Montreal Gazette contributed to this report.

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